Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

Joan Mondale accepting the Public Art Network Annual Award from Americans for the Arts, 2008

Joan Mondale accepting the Public Art Network Annual Award from Americans for the Arts, 2008

I know the nation’s arts community joins me in mourning the loss of one of our country’s staunchest arts advocates, Joan Mondale.  As the wife of Walter Mondale, vice president to President Jimmy Carter, she used her public position to place a bright spotlight on the vital role that artists and arts organizations play in strengthening American communities.

Mrs. Mondale intersected with Americans for the Arts on a number of notable occasions, beginning with her service on our board in the mid-1970’s, when we were known by one of our predecessor names, the American Council for the Arts.  In 1977, she was the guest speaker at the tenth annual meeting of the Business Committee for the Arts (now a division of Americans for the Arts).

I first met her at the Americans for the Arts annual convention in 1987 in Portland, Oregon, where she was a fervent keynote speaker and great motivational figure for hundreds of local arts agency leaders.  I later had the privilege of serving with her on the national advisory board of the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), where we shared a passion for fine craft—she as a potter and me as a woodcarver.  And in 2008, Americans for the Arts was pleased to honor her with the Public Art Network Award, in recognition of her lifelong nurturing of art in public places.

She was a long-time museum guide who, while her husband was in office, ensured that the home of the vice president, and later, the ambassador to Japan’s residence, were infused with art.  A frequent board member for arts organizations and an avid speaker for their gatherings, Mrs. Mondale was particularly effective in her most visible role as honorary chair of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities during the Carter Administration.

On behalf of those of us who work in the arts who had the pleasure of knowing her and admiring the important work she did in promoting the public value of the arts, we salute “Joan of Art.”  Her voice will be deeply missed.

Ciara McKeown

Ciara McKeown

Many municipal public art programs in North America are creating permanent public artworks in response to policy, funding structures, and a variety of other reasons. And yet, there is a recognizable shift towards durational works that focus on experience and process over object-based work. It also seems many of us are reaching capacity—more works entering into the collection and less funds to take care of them all; more time dealing with the vast unknown of conserving new media works; and  overloaded staff capacities to manage all parts of the process. Are we at the tipping point where change has to happen before we see implosion? I would argue that we are. I would argue that we need to develop the conversation in our field, nationally and internationally, to have municipal policies, funding, and programs that reflect the need and desire for both shorter and longer-term public art.

And, in tandem, we need to not shy away from why public artworks do not need to, and cannot always, last forever. Discussion is imperative—deaccession is not a bad word.

Temporary: Why it Matters and Why it Works

An excerpt I recently read from the publication Locating the Producers: An End to the Beginning, the Beginning of the End by Paul O’Neill & Claire Doherty [1], explored the established notion of place-based practice and stated that the book’s aim was to show, through research and case studies, “…that a fundamental shift in thinking about ‘time’ rather than simply the ‘space’ of public art commissioning is required to affect change at the level of policy.”[1] This may be the crux of where our conceptual thinking around public art can be refocused, adjusted, and rethought. Site response and notions of place are important, but we need to also break down words and terms. In my current public art world, we are hearing a lot about community engagement, but what does that mean? What are the real questions being asked; what is the desired outcome; and what are we asking the artist for and why? I think the desire for engagement is about experience and memory. It is about bringing together people and inciting conversation. In many of my favorite temporary projects, the strengths lie in the artist’s freedom to explore risk; unravel issues; and create a platform for meaningful public interaction, participation, and collaboration. Read the rest of this entry »

Patrick O'Herron

Patrick O’Herron

Banks, industrial manufacturers, energy and technology giants—these often become the “usual suspects” when arts organizations seek to build partnerships with businesses. But for some arts organizations, a major opportunity may lie the unlikeliest of industries—professional sports.

According to a recent Forbes article, professional sports, as a North American industry, generated a whopping $53.6 billion in 2012 and is expected to rise to $67.7 billion by 2017. This provides terrific potential for arts organizations to look within their own backyards at their local professional sports teams as possible strategic partners. In the spirit of the upcoming Super Bowl XLVIII, let’s examine this idea through the lens of the National Football League (NFL) and rival Super Bowl rival teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, who have each integrated the arts into the investments they are making within their respective communities.

The mission of the NFL Foundation is to support the health and safety of today’s youth and improvement of the communities in which its players and fans live. The arts play a key role. The Foundation recently announced a $1 million grant to the New York-New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee’s Snowflake Youth Foundation, which funds charitable projects throughout New York and New Jersey, many of which provide visual art, dance and drama programs for youth. Additionally, for nearly 20 years, the NFL has supported the Youth Education Town (YET) program. Similar to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, YET Centers provide after-school activities for school-age children, many of which are heavily arts-focused. YET Centers are launched with a $1 million Super Bowl Legacy Grant from NFL Charities that is matched by the Super Bowl Host community. Read the rest of this entry »

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

BEA is a Big Deal

In December 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) added to the canon of research on the economic impact of the arts with the new Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account—a measure of arts and culture in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Economic impact of the arts is not a new story.  What’s new is that an agency of BEA’s stature has undertaken the research.  The BEA is choosy about the satellite accounts it establishes and wouldn’t measure arts and culture unless it recognized the sector as important to the nation’s economic well-being and global competitiveness.

What did BEA find?  That arts and culture activity produce $504 billion dollars in goods and services annually in the U.S.—representing 3.25 percent of the nation’s economy—numbers larger than transportation ($448 billion) and agriculture ($174 billion), and only slightly behind construction ($530 billion).  The arts numbers were much larger than expected and turned enough heads at BEA headquarters to get the attention of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who provided a quote in the NEA’s release about the value of arts and culture (not an insignificant recognition). Read the rest of this entry »

A Shared Endeavor

Posted by Robert Lynch On January - 24 - 20141 COMMENT
Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

It is widely accepted across the country that the arts are a significant part of a quality education. As part of the core, they provide America’s students with essential skills and knowledge needed to be productive college and career ready citizens.

In May 2013, I attended a summit with leaders from 12 other arts and education advocacy organizations to define what quality arts education looks like at the local level, encourage partnerships, and call on organizations and individuals to actively support and promote the following points of intersection in our field. We came up with some basic agreements:

  • Development of policies and resources for arts education.
  • Access to arts education for all students.
  • Collaboration between school-based arts educators, other subject area teachers, and community-based artists and arts educators.
  • Long-term advocacy partnership between all providers of arts education.

In a time when education reform is at the helm of change and current practices are being revised, we felt that it was important to articulate the purpose and value of arts education in the balanced curriculum of all students. We assert its place as a core academic subject area and detail how sequential arts learning can be supported by rigorous national standards and assessments. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephanie Dockery

Stephanie Dockery

According to the 2013 BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts, 66% of businesses who do not currently support the arts report that they have never been asked to do so.

ProjectArt, an organization aiming to close the “access” gap in youth arts education, has taken that lesson to heart – and is now celebrating an innovative and successful partnership with Jacques Torres Chocolate for holiday and Valentine’s Day promotions that grew out of an exploratory phone call: ProjectArt asked.

Children and candy are a natural link, and the giving season is the perfect time to advocate for ProjectArt’s programs, which include art instruction, promoting art access through public libraries, and gallery exhibitions for their pupils, largely from low-income areas. Stickers attached to containers of the Jacques Torres malt balls promote that “one box of chocolate covered malt balls = one free art class for a child.”

Affectionately known as “Mr. Chocolate,” Jacques Torres founded his company in New York City in the year 2000. In 1988, he emigrated from France and became the corporate pastry chef for the Ritz-Carlton, then served as executive pastry chef at Le Cirque from 1989-2000. Jacques Torres Chocolate is headquartered in New York, and the chocolate in manufactured in Brooklyn, establishing him as the quintessential American dream. A supporter of New York nonprofits, Jacques Torres has a personal passion for supporting youth initiatives, making ProjectArt’s proposal a perfect fit. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Matters, Darn It!

Posted by Ken Busby On January - 22 - 20145 COMMENTS
Ken Busby

Ken Busby

Each day we witness the power of the arts to transform lives – whether it’s a child learning to draw, a teenager taking a class on glassblowing or an adult returning to a favorite hobby like photography.

The arts heal, the arts transform, the arts engage, the arts serve as an economic catalyst.  And yet the arts, especially arts education, are consistently underfunded.  As CEO of one of the 50 largest arts council’s in the United States, I spend the majority of my time raising money for and raising awareness of the importance of the arts, and arts education in particular.   And that’s the job of a CEO.  I’m not complaining.

What frustrates all of us in this line of work is that no matter how much we share research and data that demonstrates the value of arts education to keep kids, especially those at-risk and underserved, in school, performing better on standardized tests, demonstrating fewer aberrant behaviors, doing more volunteering in the community, reading for pleasure, and attending college, there are those who dismiss all this as mere conjecture – and therefore not in real need of funding.  I’m focusing here on public funding for the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Eileen Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe

In the waning days of 2013, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer cited examples of performing arts organizations experimenting with curtain times, holding some weeknight performances as early as 6:30 pm instead of the long-accepted standard of 8:00 pm. The reasons given included appealing to younger audiences, who might want to go somewhere else after the show; appealing to older audiences, who might appreciate getting home earlier; and appealing to everyone in between, who might find it easier to hire a babysitter or just to show up for work the next day. One of the early trends from this experimentation is that some midweek performances with earlier curtain times are pulling even with or outpacing once-hot Friday evening ticket sales.

In other words, Friday is the new Tuesday—or maybe Tuesday is the new Friday? Either way, this is as good a place as any to begin the conversation about what constitutes the “new normal” for the nonprofit arts and culture sector and how arts organizations continue to respond to the changing environment in terms of audience behaviors and, in the wake of the Great Recession, evolving funder behaviors, too.

Looking back at 2013, it was in many ways a year of contradictory trends in the arts sector: two steps forward, one step back, or perhaps the other way around. Growth, contraction, innovation, struggle, resurrection, collapse. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

Statement made at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ Awards Conference on January 14, where I was honored with the Sidney R. Yates Award:

My very first National Arts management training came from Association for Performing Arts Presenters conferences in the mid-seventies. I needed that because my presenting passions were not usually very lucrative: prisons, senior centers, inner-city and rural communities, large, all-embracing community festivals.

At about the same time, I became passionate about advocacy. I learned in Massachusetts that if we could harness the energy and clout of artists, arts managers, and arts lovers, we could indeed increase state government funding tenfold. We, all working together, could get voted in huge new state and local money streams nurturing emerging avenues of support for arts involvement and vision like city planning, social problem solving, and economic development. These avenues would provide opportunities for artistic focus and employment in unexpected areas, resulting in new support for fields like public art, art in transportation projects, and expanded revenue streams for all the arts.

In the eighties and nineties in Washington, DC at NALAA and then Americans for the Arts, I learned the necessity and challenges of ongoing collaboration; of the need for constant clarification against unfair, unfounded political attacks; of the need for case making for something as precious as the arts, which should need no defense. Undertaking advocacy efforts with Mr. Sidney Yates for some thirteen years taught me the value of a compelling story and a signature performance in shaping an arts appropriation increase.

I also continued to look to APAP as a source of information and sheer joy about the breadth of the performing arts and as a reminder about why my advocacy was important. At home I got to hear about APAP’s good works from my partner, Dianne Brace, who produced and directed the APAP Annual Conference over a five year period.

In the 21st century, I see more than ever the value of and need for the arts at every table, the value of bringing an arts voice to every national endeavor and national forum, whether for the business community, elected leadership, philanthropy, or social change.

Now in 2014, I am honored to be receiving the Sidney R. Yates Advocacy Award. It is especially meaningful coming from the organization that first mentored me. America needs the arts, although sometimes it doesn’t know it. The arts need advocacy, and the arts and I need APAP.

Lane Harwell

Lane Harwell

It is not coincidental that New York is a business and cultural capital; business and the arts are one. Arts and culture improve livability, drive tourism and economic development, and make the city desirable for businesses and their employees. Robust and strategic corporate giving is critical to realizing these and more deliverables.

To better understand and to advocate for corporate giving, the organization I run, Dance/NYC, has produced its first-ever corporate giving snapshot, which is based on the New York State Cultural Data Project (CDP) and an extension of our recent State of NYC Dance (2013).

The snapshot is, in part, a response to the Wall Street Journal headline “Corporate Support for Dance Wanes,” sparked by our first CDP report released in 2011. It is also a response to more recent studies by the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA) and by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, which suggest the opposite; in fact, based on their sources, corporate giving may be up.

Dance/NYC’s new CDP findings reveal an uneven patchwork of growth and decline in corporate giving to dance makers in the five boroughs at the core of our analysis. The amount received “in donations from corporations, including grants, funds and matching gifts” (source: CDP) grew 7.7 percent in the aggregate from 2009 to 2011. Corporate donations benefit dance makers of all budget sizes, and equal 5.1 percent of their total private contributions. Read the rest of this entry »

Jessica Wilt

Jessica Wilt

It’s the start of a New Year and technology will continue to be a hot arts education topic in 2014.  Since launching my own ArtsEdTechNYC venture last spring, I’ve immersed myself in many conversations exploring ways in which technology – I admit, a super generalized term – is being utilized within the scope of arts education. In meaningful, effective ways including K-12, higher education, distance learning and special needs populations, I remain continuously inspired by so many people doing amazing work.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered where technology will continue to change the way we teach, educate and inform our arts education field this year and beyond.

RESEARCH

The Wallace Foundation released two critical pieces of research late last year. As access to technology for learning, communication and art making grow among our youth, self-directed, connected, and digital learning opportunities are expanding as well.New-Opportunities-for-Interest-Driven-Arts-Learning-in-a-Digital-Age_COVER

These reports are a must-read:

ONLINE LEARNING & PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The EdTech movement is the driving force behind development of so many new online learning platforms, apps, and software being created at lighting speed.  Here are a few arts, creativity, and innovation sites that I think are great:

  • Susan Riley’s STEM to STEAM focused Education Closet provides a wonderful platform for art integration ideas and professional development, while also offering a unique annual virtual conference. The STEM to STEAM conversation will continue to be an extensive one. Read the rest of this entry »

Creative Excellence

Posted by John R. Killacky On January - 7 - 20145 COMMENTS
John R. Kilacky

John R. Kilacky

Recently, I participated on two funding panels: the National Endowment for the Arts for theater projects and a California foundation for commissioning new music. Artistic excellence was a key criterion on both panels.

Defining quality used to be easy, although taste was always a mitigating factor. Now in our multicultural society, it is more complex. No longer can we calibrate merit solely through a Euro-centric framework.

Experts on my theater panel reviewed applications from ensembles with budgets in the tens of thousands to those with budgets in the tens of millions. Projects included amateurs learning to tell their own stories , alongside avant-garde works, free Shakespeare, revivals of classics, puppet tales, new scripts, site specific and culturally specific productions. Communities served included Latino, African American, LGBT, elderly, children, the incarcerated, and homeless in urban, inner city, and rural locations.

Music panelists judged choral, electronic, jazz, and orchestral proposals against Balinese Gamelan and East Indian vocal projects. String quartets competed with a Tibetan music master, Ghanaian drummer, Turkish singer, and Beijing Opera performer. Projects ranged from minimalist to the operatic, traditional proscenium-based concerts to multidisciplinary extravaganzas.

There were limited dollars to grant, so competition was steep in both panels. Excellence mattered, and there was no lack of artistic excellence, but quality had to be judged through multiple worldviews and experiences. Panelists came from varied aesthetics, ethnicities, generations and geographies to allow for a fair review of the proposals. Equity and parity, as well as cultural competency factored into our decision-making.

Liking an artist or project was not sufficient. Listening and learning from one another’s comments were vital as we navigated beyond personal taste. Context matters, traditions are essential, and community is crucial. Read the rest of this entry »

All of us at Americans for the Arts wish you a very happy New Year, and congratulate all of you on your valuable work creating, enhancing, and advancing the arts in America last year!


We can’t wait to see what innovative and creative work will be done in the arts in 2014!

Donna Sapolin

Donna Sapolin

I love the fall/winter season in New York. Everything seems to come back to life once September rolls around and the arts kick into high gear, igniting the city with blasts of creative energy. People begin flocking to music, theater and dance performances.

A few weeks ago, I went to see the San Francisco Ballet (SFB) at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater during its first visit to New York in five years. The SFB is America’s oldest professional company and has achieved great acclaim for its overall excellence and emphasis on new ballet choreography.

The thrilling three-part program I saw – a mixed bill of two classically oriented dances (“Trio” and “Suite en Blanc”) and a contemporary one (“Ghosts”) – was utterly captivating.

Ballet Is a Microcosm of Successful Approaches to Work

Are you familiar with the famed song “At the Ballet” from the award-winning Broadway musical, A Chorus Line? It depicts ballet (and ballet lessons) as an antidote to a problem-riddled childhood because, as the chorus says, “Everything was beautiful at the ballet.”

Well, everything is beautiful at the ballet. But that exquisite perfection is the result of a great deal of creative intelligence, effort, and teamwork.

As I watched and admired SFB’s virtuosic performances complete with lush costumes, sets, and music, it struck me that the total package encapsulated all the values and steps I believe make for career success. Here they are:

1. Listen intently. Ballet dancers hinge every move and gesture on the musical score’s rhythm and emotion and the choreographer’s instruction. To do otherwise would result in failure.

We tend to forget how much we can learn by simply paying attention to others’ concepts and expert guidance, particularly in these tech-driven times when so much is competing for our attention. Lending an ear and being truly “present” to what others are saying are vital for learning new skills and absorbing valuable ideas at work. They’re also great ways to make your colleagues feel respected and spur their productive cooperation. So, lean in, make eye contact, speak less and listen conscientiously.

2. Take many steps. Top ballet dancers don’t think in terms of reducing the number of steps in the dances they perform nor do they believe they can cut back on their practice and rehearsal sessions and still manage to excel on stage. The SFB website explains: “Dancers’ lives are full of daily ballet technique classes and rehearsals. A typical workday can start with an hour-long class, followed by four to six hours of rehearsal, often concluding with a two-hour evening performance. Read the rest of this entry »

Eileen Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe

UK Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, used the occasion of the country’s “Trustees Week” to issue a call for more businesses to encourage their employees to join the ranks of nonprofit board members. Noting that there already are a million volunteer leaders in the UK, he cited a significant number of vacant board seats in the charity sector. This challenge is also prevalent among US nonprofits—and no doubt in other parts of the world, too. And as anyone who has served on a nonprofit board knows, even when there is a full complement of board members, there is always a need to consider who will come next, and how the board will renew itself over time.

Hurd notes how much expertise businesspeople have to offer to nonprofits. Importantly, he also makes the case for how business professionals—and their employers—benefit from board experience. Research done by the City of London demonstrated increased skills among volunteer leaders in categories including team building, negotiating, problem solving, and financial knowledge.

Boards require collaboration, and “leadership moments” may present themselves to charity trustees at earlier stages in their careers than they might in the corporate setting, allowing business professionals to gain confidence and try out new skills in a different environment. And there are, of course, often business benefits to be gained from networking with other board members. Read the rest of this entry »